Open-Ended Journey

--

Tomorrow morning at precisely 4:30 I’m grabbing a lift to the airport to catch a flight to New York to make a connection to San Juan to hop the puddle jumper to Tortola to board a boat bound for Bermuda. It’s been nearly a year since I’ve been offshore, my longest such absence from the deep briny in the last 22 years, and I’m so excited I can barely type. Hey, I’m off on an adventure.

An adventure. It’s a word you see a lot these days. A whole new category of tourism, dedicated to adventure travel, has emerged in recent times. Perhaps not coincidentally--because many prefer to seek their adventures from a comfortable armchair, thanks--there’s an ever-expanding genre of nonfiction books dedicated to the field. Along those lines, the folks at the National Geographic Society now publish a magazine entitled National Geographic Adventure (as if the original version wasn’t hairy enough). Then again, even we’ve run a successful program for the last decade called Adventure Charters.

According to the battered old edition of Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary stationed at my elbow (well, it was new in 1983), the lead definition of adventure is "an undertaking involving danger and unknown risks."

Hmmm. . . . The trip upon which I’m about to embark certainly has unknown factors (the actual weather we’ll encounter comes to mind) and elements of risk (especially when I’m in the galley), but I wouldn’t exactly describe as especially dangerous a straight shot in the trades aboard a 2-year-old well-found cruising boat as part of a highly experienced crew of five. So I’d define the term somewhat differently. To me, to set out on an adventure is to begin a journey whose circumstances and outcome are yet to be determined. That last part is critical: The best thing about an adventure, what really defines the term, is not knowing how the bloody thing is going to turn out.

We’ve dedicated this month’s cover and feature section to tales of adventure, and the selection of stories underscores the spectrum of experiences across which the notion can be executed. Our editor at large Steve Callahan, for instance, is no stranger to adventure--the 76 days he once spent adrift in a life raft were a good deal more than he bargained for--but on a little beach cat in his backyard waters along the Maine coast (page 34), he discovered that you don’t have to travel far to also sample the real deal.

In his article starting on page 46, regular contributor John Harries expands upon the coastwise theme in relating the tale of his chilled adventures along Greenland’s rugged eastern shore. On a decidedly different tack, another longtime CW author, Bill Biewenga, has once again quenched his thirst for adventure with a marathon ocean passage, this time in a quest to break a historic voyaging record from New York to Australia (page 40).

Clearly, some great adventures are still out there to be had, which makes it sometimes discouraging when the concept of adventure is reduced to a franchised commodity. Maybe the rest of the world is searching for something we sailors have known for quite some time. For you can make a good case that any trip of any duration on any sailboat is an open-ended adventure in its own right. After all, there’s nothing more free or adventurous than taking leave of terra firma, joining the swells and the tide, and harnessing the breeze. No matter if you’re daysailing or crossing oceans, for the first time or the hundredth, no two sails are ever the same.

I could go on like this for a while. But I’ve got a boat to find, and a fresh adventure just waiting to happen.

Herb McCormick